Joe Biden is expected to sign a bill making the site of the Pulse nightclub shooting a national memorial, five years after the massacre that left 49 dead and more injured.
The US Senate unanimously voted on Wednesday (9 June) to designate the site of the nightclub as the “National Pulse Memorial”. The legislation passed through the US House in May and now awaits approval by Biden.
It’s expected that he will sign the legislation into law imminently, with Saturday (12 June) marking the fifth anniversary of the tragedy – one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history.
Senator Rick Scott was Florida‘s governor at the time of the massacre, in which a shooter, Omar Mateen, opened fire during a Latin night at the LGBT+ club, killing 49 people and injuring another 53.
Introducing the bill to the Senate, Scott recalled the days he spent responding to the massacre, admitting it was “one of the hardest things” he ever had to do as a “father and grandfather”.
“The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me,” Scott said. “I talked to many parents who lost their children, I went to funerals and wakes and sat in hospital rooms.”
In a later statement, Scott added that the shooting was an “evil act of terrorism designed to divide us as a nation and strike fear in our hearts and minds.
“But instead, we came together, and supported each other through heartbreak and darkness, to preserve and rebuild,” he added.
Senator Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the bill, said the “process of mourning” and “remembrance” for those lost in the attack continues five years on. He added: “It’s a reminder to us that even with all the challenges and threats we face, the threat of a radical hateful ideology that can inspire people living here to take such hateful actions is something that we should remain vigilant about.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported the onePULSE foundation – a non-profit founded in the wake of the massacre – plans to build the National Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando over the coming years.
According to the legislation, the Pulse national memorial would not be a unit of the National Park System. Additionally, no federal funds would be permitted to be expended for the national memorial.
The vote comes just days after Florida governor Ron DeSantis vetoed funding for programmes that would provide life-saving mental health counselling for Pulse survivors. DeSantis cut $150,000 in funding that would go to the Orlando United Assistance Center at LGBT+ Center Orlando, which directly helps those affected by the horrific massacre.
The governor also vetoed a further $750,000 in funding that would go to the Zebra Coalition to help LGBT+ youth facing homelessness, bullying and abuse in Florida.